Putin meets his people after changing rules to keep power in the Kremlin

Vladimir Putin happily greeted his people, just days after announcing sweeping changes to the country’s constitution that could keep him in power long after his presidential term ends.

The Russian President shook hands with his supporters who came to watch him lay a wreath as part of commemorations for the 76th anniversary of the day the Siege of Leningrad was lifted.

Putin also solemnly observed life-size models depicting Red Army soldiers in WWII during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War – dubbed the world’s biggest war diorama.

Vladimir Putin happily greeted his people near Saint Petersburg just days after announcing sweeping changes to the country's constitution that could keep him in power long after his presidential term ends

Vladimir Putin happily greeted his people near Saint Petersburg just days after announcing sweeping changes to the country's constitution that could keep him in power long after his presidential term ends

Vladimir Putin happily greeted his people near Saint Petersburg just days after announcing sweeping changes to the country’s constitution that could keep him in power long after his presidential term ends

The Russian President shook hands with his supporters who came to watch him lay a wreath to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the day the Siege of Leningrad was lifted. Pictured: Putin greeting supporters

The Russian President shook hands with his supporters who came to watch him lay a wreath to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the day the Siege of Leningrad was lifted. Pictured: Putin greeting supporters

The Russian President shook hands with his supporters who came to watch him lay a wreath to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the day the Siege of Leningrad was lifted. Pictured: Putin greeting supporters

Putin – a former KGB agent- seemed barely phased following a tumultuous week that saw his entire government – including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – resign.

As part of his annual state address on Wednesday, the Russian President announced changes that could pave the way for him to extend his leadership beyond 2024.

In his address, Putin a former KGB agent described how power would be shifted from the presidency to parliament and the state council, which currently only has an advisory role. 

A day after the shock announcement Putin said he believed the people supported these changes.

Putin - a former KGB agent- seemed barely phased following a tumultuous week that saw his entire government - including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev - resign. Pictured: Putin greeting supporters

Putin - a former KGB agent- seemed barely phased following a tumultuous week that saw his entire government - including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev - resign. Pictured: Putin greeting supporters

Putin – a former KGB agent- seemed barely phased following a tumultuous week that saw his entire government – including Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – resign. Pictured: Putin greeting supporters

As part of his annual state address on Wednesday, the Russian President announced changes that could pave the way for him to extend his leadership beyond 2024. Pictured: Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony

As part of his annual state address on Wednesday, the Russian President announced changes that could pave the way for him to extend his leadership beyond 2024. Pictured: Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony

As part of his annual state address on Wednesday, the Russian President announced changes that could pave the way for him to extend his leadership beyond 2024. Pictured: Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony

Many Russians might see that as a positive change rather than a sophisticated political plot. According to a survey released Friday by Russia’s state-funded pollster VTsIOM, 45% of the respondents saw the shakeup as Putin’s genuine desire to change the existing power structure. 

Denis Volkov, a sociologist with the independent Levada polling center, said the government shakeup is so vague it is unlikely to spur public anger.

Voice of the damned: Alexandra Mironova’s diary reveal the horror of the Nazi siege of Leningrad

Professor Alexis Peri, of Boston University, sifted through scores of previously unpublished diaries that have lain largely forgotten for decades in Russian archives.

Leningrad, a city of two million, spent 872 days being blockaded by the Nazi war machine

Leningrad, a city of two million, spent 872 days being blockaded by the Nazi war machine

Leningrad, a city of two million, spent 872 days being blockaded by the Nazi war machine

One diary was that of Alexandra Mironova and it detailed the true horror of the Nazi siege of Leningrad.

When her school, like so many others, closed down, Alexandra lost her job as a history teacher. But she soon found a new position in Leningrad in the autumn of 1941 — working in an orphanage.

Rather than teaching children, it became Alexandra’s job simply to keep them alive. With a city of two million people blockaded since September 8 by the Nazi war machine, Leningrad had swiftly become a place of famine rather than a bustling centre of life and culture.

Part of Alexandra’s role was to travel around Leningrad, braving constant German bombardments, to seek out and rescue abandoned children. 

In one apartment she found two young girls scrounging for food, while in a nearby chair sat their mother’s two-day-old corpse.

The Russian language distinguishes between two types of cannibalism. 

There is trupoedstvo — eating the flesh of someone who is already dead — and liudoedstvo, which means eating the flesh of someone you have killed.

In Leningrad, both took place, and mothers even fed their children human flesh.  

Alexandra encountered a family called the Kaganovs, who practised cannibalism. 

When Alexandra tried to take their children to the orphanage, she found ‘they did not want to leave their uncooked meat’.  

‘What is happening is not clear. Is this about a presidency? About some other governing body? It is unclear what people should express their unhappiness about,’ Volkov said. ‘It is hard to protest against something that’s unclear.’

In addition, Volkov noted, back in 2011-2012 Putin’s approval ratings were much lower – more than half of the country wanted him out. ‘Right now there is no urge to replace the country’s leader,’ he said.

It comes as the Russian parliament overwhelmingly backed his surprise choice for a new prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin – a 53-year-old with almost no political profile.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, endorsed the nomination with 383 votes of 424 cast. Nobody voted against him; there were 41 abstentions.

In his speech, Putin called for the power of the State Council, an advisory body, to be expanded and enshrined in the constitution – adding to conjecture that he could take it over after 2024 to preserve power.

Some have speculated that this could result in him set to rule for life as Xi Jinping appears to have done in China.

Today’s choreographed show of public support for Putin came as Putin lay a wreath at the Boundary Stone monument, around 50 kilometers east of Saint Petersburg.

The ceremony is part of the 76th anniversary of the end of the devastating WWII Leningrad siege by Nazi forces.

Named at the time after the communist revolutionary, the city was blockaded by German Nazi and Finnish troops for four desperate years during WW2.

By the time the siege ended on January 27, 1944, 872 days later, an estimated 630,000 people had died.

Some historians say this is a conservative number, and suggest the real death toll to be closer to 800,000.

The siege began on September 8, 1941, when Nazi forces fully encircled the city, three months after launching Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union.

The truth of what occurred took time to trickle outwards, across Europe to France and Britain. Few people realised the real horror of the siege. For years afterwards Stalin kept it dark. 

After the Khrushchev thaw, a new legend was propagated. The citizens of Leningrad were heroic in their staunch resistance against hunger and German bombs.

They were willing – and quiet – martyrs for the Revolutionary cause.

But with the collapse of communism, archives opened, as did police records and siege diaries.

The city of almost 3 million, including about 400,000 children, had endured increasingly bleak hardship. 

It is estimated that more than half of the city’s population died during the siege’s first year – an extremely cold winter stretching from 1941 to 1942.

Rations fell to just 125 grams of bread per person of which 50 to 60 per cent consisted of sawdust and other inedible bulking agents.

All municipal heating was switched off and the city’s people were forced to endure temperatures of as low as -30 degrees celsius.

The death toll peaked in the first two months of 1942 at 100,000 every four weeks.

People died on the streets, and citizens soon became accustomed to the sight of bodies lying sprawled across the pavement.

Putin also solemnly observed life-size models depicting Red Army soldiers in WWII during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War - dubbed the world's biggest war diorama

Putin also solemnly observed life-size models depicting Red Army soldiers in WWII during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War - dubbed the world's biggest war diorama

 Putin also solemnly observed life-size models depicting Red Army soldiers in WWII during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War – dubbed the world’s biggest war diorama

In his address, Putin a former KGB agent described how power would be shifted from the presidency to parliament and the state council, which currently only has an advisory role. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

In his address, Putin a former KGB agent described how power would be shifted from the presidency to parliament and the state council, which currently only has an advisory role. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

In his address, Putin a former KGB agent described how power would be shifted from the presidency to parliament and the state council, which currently only has an advisory role. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

A day after the shock announcement Putin said he believed the people supported these changes. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

A day after the shock announcement Putin said he believed the people supported these changes. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

A day after the shock announcement Putin said he believed the people supported these changes. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

Many Russians might see that as a positive change rather than a sophisticated political plot. According to a survey released Friday by Russia's state-funded pollster VTsIOM, 45% of the respondents saw the shakeup as Putin's genuine desire to change the existing power structure. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

Many Russians might see that as a positive change rather than a sophisticated political plot. According to a survey released Friday by Russia's state-funded pollster VTsIOM, 45% of the respondents saw the shakeup as Putin's genuine desire to change the existing power structure. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

Many Russians might see that as a positive change rather than a sophisticated political plot. According to a survey released Friday by Russia’s state-funded pollster VTsIOM, 45% of the respondents saw the shakeup as Putin’s genuine desire to change the existing power structure. Pictured: Putin during a tour of Memory talks: The Road Through War

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